Community Renewal Team (CRT)

Local Connecticut had the chance to speak with Jason Black from Community Renewal Team to discuss the organization and the local communities in Connecticut they work with.

Local Connecticut: For those that don't know what does CRT stand for and what do you do?

Jason Black: CRT is the Community Renewal Team. We are the community action agency for people living in both Hartford County and Middlesex County, so all of central Connecticut. CRT is the largest non-profit provider of human services in all of Connecticut. Believe it or not, CRT has been doing its work for the past 55 years! In 2017, CRT helped create opportunities for more than 86,000 individuals and over 35,000 families in our service area.

LC: What are some of the services you provide?

JB: Our mission is “Preparing Our Community to Meet Life’s Challenges.” We strive to meet the goals of that mission each and every day by helping people and families become self-sufficient while making sure that their basic needs are being met, too. CRT offers a broad range of services for individuals and families – from young to old, and everyone in between. This includes our Head Start and early childhood program for little ones (starting from infants through preschool), job training for teens and young adults, services for veterans, shelters for the homeless, providing Meals on Wheels to home-bound seniors as well as communal meals at senior centers. In Hartford, we manage The Retreat, which is a unique assisted living facility for income-eligible residents.

We offer a broad range of behavioral health services for people facing addiction issues and working with them to make changes for the better. Our community services team helps people with housing counseling, foreclosure prevention counseling, annual – and free – tax preparation services, as well as an annual course in financial literacy to help people better understand their finances. We also offer both an energy assistance program to help people pay fuel costs in the winter, and a statewide weatherization program that can help people to make their homes more energy efficient throughout the year. Also, this past year, when devastating hurricanes struck southern Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, CRT worked closely with local agencies and government offices in and around Hartford to help meet the needs of people relocating to our community.

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LC: What is the biggest need you see within the communities around you?

JB: Where to begin? Our programs have ongoing needs throughout the year. But that is one of the interesting things about CRT – we have programs and services designed to meet the needs of specific groups of people. If there is a cause or need that you feel strongly about, chances are that CRT can find a way to help you get involved.

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LC: How can someone partner with you in helping others?

JB: Some of the places where we can regularly use support include the following: Donations can be made to the McKinney Shelter or East Hartford Family Shelter, both of which serve the homeless. They can always use things like new socks, toiletries, bedding, and new or gently used coats. The early childhood education program is happy to accept picture books and other classroom supplies. We maintain an emergency fuel bank, for people who cannot afford to pay for home heating expenses in the winter. Our Meals on Wheels program can use volunteer drivers to bring hot, nutritious meals to homebound seniors. Often, these deliveries are the only point of contact that the seniors have with people outside of their home. We have an annual program each summer that we run with Feed the Children in Hartford, where 800 families will receive a week’s worth of food and other essentials. We can always use volunteers to hand out the boxes that day.

We partner each year with the National Arts Program to host a three-week art show, open to anyone in Central Connecticut, who can submit their work for free and have it displayed in a gallery-like setting at Capital Community College. We always need volunteers to help with that event. Retired seniors can volunteer to help out in a number of different programs, including reading with school-aged children once a week, serving as an “ambassador” at Bradley International airport where they help passengers find their way, or as a driver, taking other seniors to and from medical appointments.

This year, we are starting a Women’s Empowerment Center that will enable women to help establish economic stability and be successful in their careers in order to provide for themselves and their children.  The Center will serve as a safe and open place for women from Hartford and Middlesex counties to access intensive mentorship, holistic case management, personal development classes, support groups, conferences, workshops and leadership training focusing on supporting financial literacy, entrepreneurship, career and workforce readiness, as well as networking opportunities. CRT is hosting a kick-off event for this new Center on Wednesday, May 2 in Hartford. Details: www.crtct.org/en. Also each summer, we host two different golf tournaments – one to benefit Meals on Wheels and the other will support our new Women’s Empowerment Center. Those events need everything from volunteers, to sponsors to golfers who want to play 18 holes for a good cause. Both events will be held at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford – the exact dates are to be announced.

More information about CRT’s various programs and services can be found on our website, or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/crtct

Individuals that would like to get involved can also contact us via email: info@crtct.org.